How To Protect Your Hearing When Shooting

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Is it important to protect your hearing when shooting? The infographic below tells about the dangers of high-intensity sound and what ear protection to use against it.

RELATED: SoundGear Review: What Is Your Hearing Worth?

In this article:

  1. Protecting the Shooter's Ear
  2. Different Noises in Decibels
  3. Signs of Hearing Damage
  4. Hearing Protection Options

Protect Your Hearing When Shooting

Protecting the Shooter's Ear

Every hunter and shooter knows how to practice proper gun safety in order to protect themselves and those around them from accident or injury. But one thing that often goes overlooked is ear protection.

Shooting guns without ear protection — and especially doing so frequently, or for long periods of time — will at best cause an uncomfortable sensation and ringing in the ear. Your ear feels clogged after shooting.

At worst, it can cause permanent hearing damage. This is why it is so important to wear ear protection when shooting.

The infographic below from The Smoking Barrel explains the reasons why you need ear protection for shooting, as well as how to best protect your ears.

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Different Noises in Decibels

What is Decibel (dB)? The unit used to measure the intensity of a sound.

Here are several examples of common loud noises you can compare with the sound of gunfire.

  • People's conversation –  60 dB
  • Chainsaw – 110 dB
  • Police/ambulance siren – 120 dB
  • Jet taking off – 140 dB
  • 12-gauge shotgun – 156 dB
  • .38 special – 158 dB
  • 9mm Pistol – 160 dB

RELATED: Earplug Review: Etymotic GunSport Pro Electronic Plugs

Signs of Hearing Damage

Long or repeated exposure to sounds at or above 85 decibels can cause hearing loss. The louder the sound the shorter the amount of time it takes for noise-induced hearing loss to happen.

For unprotected ears, the allowed exposure time by one half for each 5 dB increase in the average noise level. For instance, exposure is limited to 8 hours per day at 90 dB, 4 hours per day at 95 dB, and 2 hours per day at 100 dB.

Look out for these signs of hearing damage:

  • Muffling of sound
  • Difficulty distinguishing words when people talk to you
  • Difficulty determining from which direction a sound is coming
  • Tinnitus, ringing or buzzing noise in your ear after exposure to noise

Hearing Protection Options

Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) is the amount of protection a hearing protection device provides in a noisy environment. NRR is the decibel reduction provided by hearing protection.

Consider these devices to help protect your hearing against loud noises:

  • Earplugs – 20 dB to 30 dB NRR
  • Passive earmuffs – 17 dB to 33 dB NRR
  • Electronic earmuffs –  17 dB to 33 dB NRR – Provides additional noise management features

Note: Wearing earplugs inside your ear with earmuffs over it provides double hearing protection or an increased NRR score.


It's pretty clear how prolonged loud noise can affect your ears. The loud bang of a firearm is enough to damage your hearing especially if there's no hearing protection.

Whether you're practice shooting inside the range or in a more open space, make it a point to wear earplugs/earmuffs.

Can you tell us about some ear protection tips you practice? What do you think about hearing protection when shooting? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below!


Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on March 16, 2016, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.

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How To Protect Your Hearing When Shooting

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